Security urged for crystal meth chemicals
While there have been no incidents of theft to date, University personnel are urged to be vigilant in securing chemicals that could potentially be used in the production of crystal methamphetamine, more commonly known as crystal meth.
One lock is good but two locks are better is the basic advice from Steve Kranz, Chemical and Environmental Safety Manager with the Department of Health, Safety and Environment (DHSE). When it comes to keeping chemicals out of the hands of thieves, locks are the first line of defense.
“For those chemicals that are commonplace in teaching and research, people don’t need to take any more precautions than are already in place – and the minimum amount of security is keeping doors locked when no one is in the workplace.” The stakes are higher, however, for materials that might be “of particular interest to thieves”, and Kranz recommends storing such materials in a locked cabinet inside a locked room.
Previous incidents on campus point to the need for diligence. Kranz, along with the Campus Safety Department, and the Saskatoon Police Service all confirm that glassware has been stolen from the University for the production or smoking of crystal meth. Constable Jerome Engele with the city police Integrated Drug Squad said lab personnel should take as much care protecting chemicals as they now do with glassware.
In terms of what specific chemicals might be targeted, Engele rattled off a long list – acetone, alcohol, drain cleaner, iodine, salts, lye, red phosphorous, muriatic acid, and more. He explained that different methods of producing crystal meth require different ingredients and to get a sense of that variety, “just go to the Internet and look at what’s there”.
Engele said after locks, chemical inventories are the best way of preventing loss. Knowing who is using rooms and labs is also important.
“You want to be keeping track of what’s going on, of who’s got what.”
Kranz said health and safety regulations require inventories of hazardous materials but not by amount, although he recommends amounts be recorded. “We realize that people are busy, and we’re not expecting them to keep track on a gram-by-gram basis, but the inventories should be updated periodically” to establish usage rates and spot anomalies. Detailed information about chemical inventory and other requirements is on the department’s website.
Greater awareness about protecting glassware has reduced the number of those incidents, he
said, “but one of the other problems associated with this is glass materials that are thrown away into dumpsters can be targeted by thieves”. He related an incident where a person was found in a dumpster on campus collecting vials that contained blood. His intention, said Kranz, “was to rinse them out to make crack pipes and meth pipes”.
Even though the vials were not strictly biologically contaminated, the best alternative is disposal through Biomed, a contracted disposal firm. Kranz said the Biomed process “destroys glass, making it unavailable to dumpster divers”.